Lodima Press, Ottsville, 2008. Hardbound. 48pp., 38 black and white illustrations. 9½x8½".
Ticetown Photographs by George Tice published by Lodima Press, 2008
George Tice is best known as a photographer of urban scenes, chiefly in New Jersey, mainly with a large format view camera, and entirely in black and white. Several of these aspects come together in Ticetown, a book comprised of just over three dozen images, some picturing remnants of historical Tice family effects, and a dozen pages of text, some by Tice himself and some from historical sources. For anyone familiar only with his urban landscape pictures, here Tice's photographs reveal how sensitive his chosen medium is in his hands. He divulges the details of another world of abandoned farms and orchards, a once-agricultural New Jersey nearly erased by the time Tice photographed it in the 1990s. This small book (9½ x 8½") is an eloquent and elegiac testament to the vanishing traces of vigorous life. Partly through juxtaposition with the discourses of Tice's Methodist forebears, Tice quietly articulates themes of the passage of time that are elevated to a spiritual or transcendental order.
The book also reveals what Tice's previous publications have made evident, but never so clearly as here: His ability to tell an autobiographical (and non-technical) story of the conception and execution of his work. In the preface titled "Fallen Apples" (also the title of one of the photographs), Tice explains how he came to this subject and the apparently self-referential title of the book. The album originated with a genealogical quest and the discovery of ancestors whom Tice had neither met nor heard of while growing up estranged from his father in Newark and with a mother who was a "Traveler" (in the line of a British sub-culture of itinerants) in the Newark exurbs, peddling paper flowers for subsistence. Many years later, his research led him to a place that at one time really was called "Ticetown," on the border of Middlesex and Monmouth counties in central New Jersey. There he discovered a disintegrating but recognizable Tice Homestead, along with local historical archives containing letters, poems, news clippings, and family photographs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As assembled and recomposed in this volume, these documents tell a story centered on the death of young Irvin Tice, Jr., in 1905. It is worth noting not only Tice's care and knowledge as a historian and keeper of the archive, but also the personal dimension of this exploration, which must have sent a shock of recognition as Tice restored the oxidized nineteenth century photographic image of Irvin, Jr., to reveal an unmistakable family resemblance.
Ticetown, by George Tice. Published by Lodima Press, 2008.
In this book, Tice works in a difficult photographic genre; discussing the historical, and therefore, limited genres of poetry, William Carlos Williams wrote to Allen Ginsberg that "in this mode, perfection is basic." Almost since the beginning of photography we have seen images of apple blossoms and apple boughs. What new could one expect of them? Two facing images in this book answer. "Apple Bough, Ticetown, September 1994" — a cluster of gravid dark apples that appear to be an heirloom variety (non-commercial and all but lost) and an invasive vine twining along the bough to which they cling, rivals and perhaps surpasses images of a similar tenor and composition in early 20th century American photography. In the other, "Apple Blossoms, Ticetown, May 1994," a swirl of light from blossoms and the dark underlying structure of branches suggest another and contrasting human experience and mood. But neither image is subsumed by sentiment. One cannot title them with abstractions. They are topical, but like others in this book, like the representation of distant Tice family, they are distinguished by the specificity of fixing the image in the light and shadow of life giving life. In an undertone established by the recollection of the words of Tice's Methodist ancestors, they revolve like the seasons toward an unknown futurity.
Stephen Hahn is Associate Provost and Professor of English at the William Paterson University of New Jersey. Born in Massachusetts in 1950, he graduating from Amherst College in 1975. He migrated to New Jersey to attend graduate school that year, and received a Ph.D. in English and American Literature in 1984. His interest in George Tice began with the publication in 1971 of Tice's Paterson. His essay "'It wasÉcivilization I was after': George Tice, William Carlos Williams, and the Archaeology of Paterson" appeared in the 50th Anniversary Issue of The Literary Review (Summer 2007).